7 Days

Asylum records In 1999, 71,000 people claimed asylum in the UK - an increase of 50 per cent since 1998. The backlog of current applications has topped 100,000. It is likely to take four years to shift the load, and not, as promised, until October. Moreover, the proportion of successful applicants per 1,000 citizens is significantly lower than elsewhere in Europe.

The TransTec spirit Geoffrey Robinson, chairman of the New Statesman and former paymaster general, said that he expected the DTI investigations into the collapse of TransTec to find him "totally blameless". It has been alleged that the company covered up an outstanding £11million claim from Ford. The Sunday Times reported allegations from TransTec's former chief accountant that, on an earlier occasion, Robinson told him how to "maximise" claims for government grants in a way that broke the "spirit" of the rules. But Robinson said the claims were "utterly in the spirit of the law" and, in the Times, the former managing and technical directors said that "all procedures . . . were properly observed".

Holocaust remembrance Blair announced that Britain will mark 27 January, the date of the liberation of Auschwitz, as an annual Holocaust Memorial Day. Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks applauded the government for its "brave and significant idea".

Drug-driving An RAC study reported a sharp increase in drug-driving, showing that 10 per cent of 17-34 year olds had been driven by someone on drugs compared to 4 per cent by a drunk driver. Government statistics show illegal substances are now found in 18 per cent of drivers killed compared to 3 per cent 11 years ago. But the police have no powers to order road-side drugs testing.

Cultured win Seamus Heaney won the Whitbread prize for the second time. Beowulf, the "buried treasure", nipped wiz-kid Harry Potter at the final hurdle.

This article first appeared in the 31 January 2000 issue of the New Statesman, Why arms sales are bad for Britain